Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.
Mark, who has been with the business for
over 20 years, is an ASE
Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE
L1 certification, and has an associates degree
in business management.
(Printed in the Journal
of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP)
Back in May of this past year we sold a customer a 1999 Mercedes C280. In September that same customer came in reporting that the check engine light was on. For some reason our scan tool would not communicate with the vehicle and the Mercedes was already out of factory warranty. Since the customer only had the car for about four months, I wanted to make sure we would resolve the problem at our expense. I decided to send the vehicle to the same dealer that we use when the cars are under factory warranty. To spare any added inconvenience, I told the customer that we would transport the car for them both to and from the dealership. On the day of the appointment, we dropped off the car at the dealer. Later that day, I received a call from the service advisor I knew at the dealership. The car's ailment could be cured by replacement of the Mass Air Flow sensor. I agreed to the $547.00 total price and authorized the repairs. Besides the Mass Air Flow sensor problem, the advisor wanted to discuss some other items that needed attention. The rear differential was leaking fluid and required an overhaul with new fluid and a gasket replacement. They noted several other smaller issues as well. At the end of the conversation, the service advisor asked me if I could authorize the $1,432.00 of additional work. I told him to just continue with the sensor replacement and that the customer and I would inspect the vehicle here for the additional recommended repairs. As I hung up the phone, the conversation I had just been privy to was only now beginning to sink in. It wasn't the dollar amount in itself that caught me off guard. Let's face it, with the complexity of high-line cars today, four figure estimates are getting more common. The thing that seemed odd was the advisor's candor and freedom of expression in stating an estimate with such a high dollar amount. I don't know about you, but when I call a customer to authorize a large repair amount, I just can't express it that quickly and easily. It's as if, somehow, I feel guilty that the customer is in for a big expense. I find this even holds true if we did not sell the car needing the repairs. Often, I find myself advising the customer of items they can temporarily put off to help spread out their repair expense. It's as if I'm watching my own wallet and personal finances. I suppose I am making the mistake of putting myself in the customer's shoes. It's as if I'm too shy to state the cold hard facts. Technically, I should know better. Like so many of you, I have been to many training seminars on estimating and shop management. You know the drill: "Do not position yourself or your feelings between the estimate and the customer." So easy to say, yet so hard to do. Chalk it up to another lesson learned. In the end, an under chassis inspection of the differential revealed a very small stain from a prior leak. The customer lucked out as the leak was inactive so no repair action was warranted.
At some point in the future you'll also find yourself making that customer call regarding a large repair estimate. Do you think you can handle it? Are you too shy?